God & Suffering Part 3: For the Confidence and Hope of the Saints

I close this series with a look at how suffering is ordained by God to refine and produce perseverance in true believers. Through suffering, true Christ-followers will be able to identify with their Lord and Savior, persevere to the end, and truly be confident in their assurance of their salvation found in Christ and more eagerly look forward to the hope that is to come. Just as Jesus endured suffering with joy in God, He also was confident in the will of the Father since He knew the glory and the hope that was to come. May we as Christians view suffering for what it truly is from God, a refining tool and confidence booster, as well as a reminder that our hope is not in the perishable things of this world, but in the imperishable things of the kingdom of heaven that will fully be realized at Christ’s return.

A third and final reason or purpose for God allowing and ordaining suffering in the world is to increase the confidence and hope of the saints as they are proven to be true believers. Jesus promised His followers not safety or comfort, but definite persecution, suffering, and hatred: “…and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22 cf. 24:9, 13). This is to say that those who truly follow Christ and make up His church will persevere through persecution and suffering until the end, never finally forsaking Him. When suffering invades a local church making its way to its members individually, there will be those who turn from God, curse Him, blame Him, accuse Him, and ultimately leave Him: unbelievers. There will also be those who experience initial grief and frustration, as well as confusion; yet they will turn into the loving embrace of God and trust in His sovereignty in their suffering: true believers. They know that if they called their Master, Beelzebul, how much more they malign those of His household because of their allegiance and surrender to Him (Matthew 10:25). Yet, they will find comfort and joy in Him as they wear His stripes of suffering to display the glory of His grace to others. The latter describes true saints (Hebrews 3:14). Without suffering, there would be no distinction. It would be very easy for us to obey God, place our trust in Him if the true gospel was a “prosperity gospel.” If Christians never experienced suffering, Jesus would be considered a liar and it would be easy for all to trust in Him in vain for the benefit of His gifts of health and wealth. However, the Christian suffers more than anyone else due to the radical and worldly sacrificial lifestyle he or she has been called to live.

Anytime there is mention of suffering, typically for the righteous, perseverance will follow. We always speak of Job having great patience when in reality he was not very patient with his friends or God for that matter. However, Job in fact persevered through his tremendous suffering. Job suffered more than any other man up until that point. The ironic thing about Job’s suffering was that he was considered righteous before God. Job is like Christians today. Because of Christ, we are considered righteous before God and yet we still suffer (even more so than in our old life). Although Job did not expect it, we should. Job persevered until the end and was blessed immensely by God. We may not see material blessing in this life but we do have the hope in Christ of that glorious future eternal blessing that awaits us.

Perseverance is also found in Jesus Himself. Had he not remained faithful and obedient through His suffering, He would not have been the true Messiah and our sins would not be forgiven. Because of His perseverance through horrendous suffering (ordained by God) He was proven to be the true Messiah worthy to forgive our sins. Some may say that it was easier for Christ to do so since He was God. This claim nearly denies (or at least belittles) His humanity and we have the great Helper in us which empowers us to persevere (John 14:16-17).

Suffering refines the Church and each one of her members so as to strengthen their faith. Trials and tribulations will in fact produce steadfastness in our hearts as we endure to the end (James 1:2). God ordains suffering so as to refine our faith and teach us to truly trust in and rely on Him. We are proven to be true Christians by our steadfastness in our confidence in Christ and our boasting in our hope in Him through suffering (Hebrews 3:6). Do not be mistaken, suffering will most definitely come our way sometimes in very harsh and hurtful ways. However, evidence of those who are truly partaking of Christ’s salvation will endure to the end. Genuine believers will not become hardened to the truth and hope of the gospel during suffering, but instead persevere. God uses trials and suffering to display and identify[1] His true Church. Perseverance through suffering for the Christian will produce a confidence and assurance in their faith and hope in Christ for salvation. One can therefore self-identify if they are true believers or not. If during suffering they harden their hearts against God and turn from Him, they may not be true believers since true believers will persevere in faith and obedience even through suffering as they are empowered by Christ to do so.

I end this series with a plea that you understand that suffering is very real and painful. It was for Christ, and it is for us. Will we ever achieve complete understanding as to why we suffer specifically? No, for to obtain such and understanding would make us God. That is not the point. The point is for us to be in awe of God’s sovereignty, never fully understand it, and trust anyway! Bottom line: God is sovereign. Trust Him! And may our cry be ever increased during our suffering: “Maranatha!” “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)

By His Grace — For His Glory — For our Joy

[1] This is not to say that God is unaware of who truly believes in Him and as a result is forced to cause suffering in order to pick them out. It is more of a self-identification that He provides us with. If when we suffer and turn to Him for comfort, our confidence and assurance in our salvation in Christ will be increased. Suffering in some ways can identify true believers to us as well. Granted, we cannot see nor judge the hearts of men, their actions and behaviors during suffering can sometimes give us a notion as to where they stand and should prompt appropriate prayer in us (James 5:20).


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